Looking for a way to re-issue/recycle music tracks for additional revenue, Virgin Records executives Stephen Navin, John Webster and Simon Draper engaged Ashley Abram of specialist compilations consultancy Box Records (he still compiles the albums). The series took its name from a 1920s advertising poster hanging in an office for Danish meat products which showed a pig listening to a whistling cockerel. The pig became the Now! series’ mascot for a while, making its last appearance on Now That’s What I Call Music 5.
The first Now! compilation appeared in November 1983 and collected thirty UK hit singles from that year on a double vinyl LP or cassette. The concept of a compilation of recent hit singles was not new; Ronco and K-tel had been issuing single-disc collections since the early 1970s. However, by spreading tracks across two discs instead of one, the Now! series was able to achieve better sound quality (tracks were often edited to fit a running time on K-Tel and Ronco single disc compilations).
The other major difference of the Now! series was its collaborative nature between major record labels. Virgin agreed a deal with EMI, which allowed a greater number of major hits to be included (the first album in the series boasted of “eleven number ones” on its sleeve, something previously unheard-of). The album went to number one and soon had a major rival in CBS/WEA‘s The Hits Album which adopted a similar format to Now! The two series co-existed for the rest of the 1980s, but when Universal joined the collaboration the Now! series dominated commercially.
- Spice Girls hold the title for most consecutive positions at track #1 on CD1. These include “Wannabe” on Now 34, “Say You’ll Be There” on Now 35″ and “Mama” on Now 36.
- Robbie Williams is the artist to be featured the most times in the UK Now! series. In the first 73 Now Albums he has appeared 30 times (including four times with Take That). His first appearance was with Take That on Now 22 with “It Only Takes a Minute” and he features on Now 75 with “You Know Me”.
- Kylie Minogue is third with 22 appearances, starting on Now 11 with “I Should Be So Lucky” and features on Now 76 with “All The Lovers”.
- Phil Collins is fourth with 20 appearances. 12 as a solo artist, 1 Duet with Marilyn Martin and 7 with Genesis, starting on “Now 1” with “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “That’s All” and features on “Now 68” with “In The Air Tonight”. It is also the longest span of Now! albums a single artist has appeared on.
- U2 are fifth with nineteen appearances, starting on Now 4 with “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and have featured on Now 72 with “Get On Your Boots”.